By Steve Markenson, Director, Research, Food Marketing Institute
speaks pulse 2019

It is not headline news that the food retail industry is facing a range of challenges, from the proliferation of competitors and competition for labor, to interchange fees and rising health care costs. Some of these issues remain the same, a few are new, and others are growing in intensity. With this range of challenges, food retailers are increasingly realizing that many of these challenges will never fully vanish, despite their best efforts. Based on response to the 2019 The Food Retailing Industry Speaks survey, food retailers are moving forward with proactive strategies to navigate the barriers and embrace new opportunities. As part of this process, food retailers are learning how to survive and thrive in any environment.

How can food retailers benefit from this year’s Speaks report? Here are a few next steps to consider:

Interpret Success Formulas

The Speaks report is full of ideas that are working for food retailers, from fresh foods to health and well-being. However, in order to make best use of the findings, retailers need to determine how to interpret these success strategies for their customer base. That will require customization and differentiation.

Experiment and Pivot

Food retailers are increasingly favoring test and pivot approaches before deciding on larger investments. This is an especially useful strategy to help ensure success with differentiation and innovation initiatives.

Weigh Complex Factors

Too often issues seem black and white. Costs are bad. Sales are good. However, more retailers are winning by realizing things aren’t always so simple. A case in point is rising health care costs. These have concerned retailers for years. Nevertheless, more retailers are eyeing the positives of absorbing such costs to address another big challenge: the need to attract and retain employees.

Bring New Creative Solutions

This year’s Speaks identifies many creative retailer success strategies developed in reaction to enduring challenges such as widespread competition and changing consumer behaviors. New challenges come along all the time. This year’s Speaks identifies emerging hurdles. Retailers have the opportunity to bring new creative solutions to bear on the industry’s latest hurdles.

The 70th edition of Speaks is about food retailers taking matters into their own hands, a skill-set likely to become increasingly important in the fast-changing landscape. It’s a recognition that challenges will not go away, and the best way to grow momentum is through proactive strategies and solutions.

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